Tight ends: Always on the wish list

It’s a familiar refrain from Bronco Nation armchair quarterbacks: “We need to throw to the tight ends more.” Their yearnings were answered Saturday night in Boise State’s rout of Utah State. Those hoping for John Bates to turn in a Jake Roh-type season as a senior saw him tie his career-high with five catches for 44 yards. Riley Smith, the one-time quarterback who has transitioned to tight end over the past year, made his first career catch, a 16-yarder in the middle of the Broncos’ first touchdown drive. Smith has also developed as a blocker and delivered a nice one on Khalil Shakir’s second TD. Plus, in Boise State’s triple-tight end formation, you saw a tall, wide No. 88 doing some road-grading out there. “Tyneil Hopper is getting much, much better,” said coach Bryan Harsin Monday. “He’ll be a good player for us.


The much scrutinized Boise State offensive line, with four new starters, acquitted itself well against the Aggies. An average of 4.9 yards per carry in the run game says a lot. It was especially rewarding for Nick Crabtree, who got the start at right tackle. Crabtree signed with the Broncos as a three-star tight end in 2016 but moved to the offensive line early in his career. Now here he is as a senior starter. It was emotional for his dad, BJ, who tweeted, “Beyond words. This kid deserves this moment. Never waivered in the belief in his process.”

It was also great to see Sam Whitney out there on defense, and he was flying around at the STUD position. The sixth-year senior played in his first game since 2018 and tied his career high with seven tackles, five of them solo. Whitney, dare I say, was headed for All-Mountain West consideration as a sophomore in 2017 when he was injured on the blue turf against Wyoming, ending his season. Whitney made it through the 2018 campaign but tore his ACL the following March during spring football and missed all of 2019. He doesn’t have to be here right now, but he is, and there’s a payoff.


Boise State put up the most dominant performance on Saturday No. 1, yet it did not earn any of the Mountain West Player of the Week honors. But we’ve been through this before. The wealth is spread among so many Broncos, that one particular player does not produce the eye-popping numbers required. And that’s okay. For the record, Nevada quarterback Carson Strong was honored on offense, San Diego State linebacker Caden McDonald on defense and Wyoming kicker John Hoyland on special teams. I won’t bore you with their numbers, but they were all solid.


I mentioned Boise State’s streak of 1,000-yard rushers Monday, and George Holani’s formula for extending it “if the Broncos play 10 games.” That would include a Mountain West championship game appearance and a bowl berth. Playing eight regular-season games is the challenge, and New Mexico is already down one, but the Mountain West has thrown the Lobos a lifeline. UNM’s opener at Colorado State was cancelled due to the prevalence of the COVID-19 virus in Bernalillo County, as well as state guidelines. That hasn’t changed, but the conference has salvaged New Mexico’s game against San Jose State this week by moving it from Albuquerque to San Jose.


Well, that was quick. ESPN has abandoned plans to host eight men’s basketball tournaments in a bubble in Orlando at the end of November, and that includes the Wooden Legacy Classic. That means Boise State will go without what would have been its highest-profile, highest-exposure game ever—against Kansas in prime time on the opening night of the season November 25. That’s a shame. ESPN recognized that COVID-19 testing was going to be problematic, and was going to cost an awful lot of money. Did you know? The Broncos have faced the Jayhawks three times, giving KU a scare in 1975 before falling 61-56. Kansas also won 82-68 in 1978 and 101-61 in 2000. All three of those were in Lawrence—this year’s game was going to be on a neutral site, and Boise State was excited about it.


The Dallas Cowboys are about as low as they can go after a 25-3 loss at Washington Sunday. Or you’d hope so. What’s offensive coordinator Kellen Moore to do? Dak Prescott is long gone with his fractured ankle. Then against The Football Team, backup Andy Dalton was helped off after a vicious late hit. The Cowboys ened up with just 144 yards of total offense after leading the NFL in that category the first month and a half of the season. Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News points out that it’s not all on the coaches, writing, “The reality is the Cowboys just don’t have the personnel necessary to compete in this horror show that is the NFC East, and an overhaul of the roster is in order.”

Watkins singled out a number of Dallas players, but the Boise State products on the team weren’t among them. The good news is that Leighton Vander Esch’s injury on Monday Night Football last week wasn’t serious. LVE was his old self, making 12 tackles versus Washington. And DeMarcus Lawrence was active on a sobering Sunday, logging seven tackles and notching his second sack of the season.

This Day In Sports…brought to you by ZAMZOWS…Nobody Knows Like Zamzows!

October 27, 2004: The Curse of the Bambino ends convincingly, as the Boston Red Sox win their first World Series since 1918 with a sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals. Johnny Damon hit a first-inning home run in Game 4, giving the Red Sox a lead they wouldn’t relinquish in the clinching 3-0 victory. The title came on the heels of one of the greatest accomplishments in sports—the rally by the Red Sox from a three-games-to-none deficit to the Yankees in the American League Championship Series.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)

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